Thursday, May 18, 2006

Harcourt Screws Up

The Illinois Board of Ed may cancel contratcs with Harcourt after Harcourt fails to deliver standardized tests on time to schools.

The problems led nearly 200 districts to delay testing 3rd through 8th graders this spring and ignited a furor in Springfield, where lawmakers lambasted Harcourt and the Illinois State Board of Education, which oversees state testing.

The article, however, never manages to say how many students were affected.

The results of the test were probably not terribly different than what they would have been had they not been delayed. As always with educators, there was much gnashing of teeth:

The timing of testing is important in achieving a valid comparison, educators said. For instance, if some children were tested after spring break, they might have performed more poorly.

Sorry, dear educators, but you're wrong. Or at least wrong enough. If you get a "failing" label because too few kids have made adequte yearly progress, it's not because the tests were taken after spring break. Standardized tests just don't work that way. There is enough redundancy built into an exam that a student whose skills may have dulled over break will not have dulled so far as to meaningfully effect the result. Regardless of the timing, if you taught them well, it will show.

Cancel the Harcourt contracts if you must, but then go and fix your schools.

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